Dan Gardner’s double gave Chesterfield a deserved victory over strugglers Crewe Alexandra to end Dean Saunders’ poor run of form.
Goals in either half from the wide midfielder earned the Spireites their first three points in over a month and kept Crewe languishing at the bottom of the League 1 table, leaving a number of frustrated home supporters calling for the head of manager Steve Davis.
For the second time in a week, Chesterfield travelled to the league’s bottom club looking to end a winless run that stretched back to the end of August.
Defeat at then-bottom club Blackpool in midweek had forced Dean Saunders to finally shake things up, shaving 15 years off the starting line-up with three changes. These included full debuts for 19-year old Rai Simons and 20-year old Mani Dieseruvwe while experienced forward Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, with only two goals all season, was among those to fall to the bench.
This made an instant impact as Bermudan international Simons proved the key figure of the early exchanges. Playing down the right wing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, he took full advantage of his first touches, charging past a couple of players with ease before firing into the arms of goalkeeper Ben Garratt from a tight angle.
Simons continued to be a menace and quickly earned his first ever league assist. A dangerous ball across the face of goal found Gardner at the far post and the 25-year old converted against his former club to give the Spireites an eighth minute lead.
Chesterfield were deserved leaders and went on to largely dominate the opening half hour as Crewe’s haphazard defence nearly cost them time and time again. The most notable occasion saw Jay O’Shea steal possession from Ben Nugent before charging through in a 2-on-1 situation, only to fire a disappoint effort wide of the target.
The Alex fans have had a tough time recently, without a home win all season and propping up the league table after defeat to Southend United in the midweek. The signs of frustration began to spill over from the home fans with chants of “We want our money back” and “Davis sort it out” accompanying the sides slow start to the afternoon.
The Spireites were being allowed far too much space to attack and failure to clear a corner led to O’Shea finding Dieseruvwe free in the box, but the man returning from suspension couldn’t find the target with his effort from close range.
Against the run of play however, the 3589 home supporters were given what has become a rare opportunity to celebrate as their side found the equaliser. With 36 minutes gone, a cross was knocked down at the edge of the area and fell perfectly to captain David Fox, who met it with a powerful first time effort into the bottom left corner.
As the old cliche says, goals change games, and this one certainly did. The goal had handed momentum to the hosts and moments after levelling, they spurned a golden opportunity to move ahead. Bradden Inman played George Cooper through on goal, but some heroic goalkeeping from Tommy Lee blocked the effort before Inman wasted the rebound opportunity with a poor connection.
The home supporters were then on their feet in the dying moments of the half, thinking Oliver Turton’s deflected strike had gone in when, in fact, it had only harmlessly rustled the side netting.
Both sides began the second period with hesitation, clearly knowing the importance of three points to kick-start their respective campaigns.
It was Chesterfield who grabbed the initiative, regaining the lead just short of the hour mark when Gardner smashed home his second of the afternoon – the winger meeting Liam O’Neil’s cross and using brilliant technique to send a bouncing first time volley past Garratt.
O’Shea caused concern for the Crewe stopper again eight minutes later but his curling, long range effort ultimately flew just wide of the far post.
Desperate for a first victory in six games, Saunders began to tighten up his team as the afternoon wore on. Chris Herd and Simons, who impressed and left the field to an ovation from the away supporters, were replaced by the more experienced and defensive options of Sam Hird and Drew Talbot.
But this defensive stance invited pressure from Crewe and there were no doubt some nervous fans in the away end when Ryan Colclough charged towards goal inside the final ten minutes, but his effort was blocked by a backtracking Ian Evatt and looked to be heading wide anyway.
With eight minutes to go the Alex boss made his first and only change of the game and it was a notable one, as Cooper was replaced 20-year old Callum Saunders – the son of opposition manager Dean.
However, the substitute couldn’t spoil his father’s day. Late goals have cost the Spireites numerous points in recent weeks but there was to be no late drama this time and Chesterfield managed to see out the victory to get October off to the perfect start.
Crewe Alexandra (1)
Line-up: Garratt, Turton, Ray, Nugent, Haber, Inman, Cooper (Saunders ’82), Fox, King, Kingsley, Colclough
Unused Subs: Nizic, Guthrie, Atkinson, Dalla Valle, Wilson, Ainley
Scorers: Fox ’36
Line-up: Lee, Jones, Evatt, Raglan, O’Neil, Herd (Hird ’72), Morsy, Gardner, O’Shea, Simons (Talbot ’77), Dieseruvwe (Gnanduillet ’90)
Unused subs: Cairns, Orrell, Banks, Ebanks-Blake
Scorers: Gardner ‘8 ’57
Referee: Ross Joyce
Attendance: 4053 (464 away)
Date: 3rd October 2015
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